I have returned from a sojourn out west to the The Nation of California. Unlike those of us here in the midwest, The Nation isn't obsessed with automotive company bankruptcies or the Stanley Cup Finals.
But it does wrestle with its own regional narcissism, self-contradictions, and general self-absorption about all things Californian.
Californians seem smug in extending their environmental viewpoint about motor vehicles to the rest of the country, especially in terms of fuel economy and choice. However, it seems that not all Californians want to impose that philosophy evenly.
In Paso Robles, I was treated to beautiful vistas and memorable scenery. The picture I will always remember, however, was the sight of a 30-foot motor home towing a Hummer H2 right behind it. It would be great as the June photo on the official OPEC wall calendar.
The folks in the southern portion of The Nation always seem proud of their perpetual sunny skies and warming temperatures. But I seemed to have visited at a bad time for planet alignment.
On a Wednesday in Temecula, I got to see quadruple lightning bolts and thunder claps that would drown out a 40-lane bowling center. For good measure, the cold, grey skies then pelted us with marble-sized hale. I thought I had to worry about earthquakes more than bizarre weather.
But while the midwest frets about its corn, cherry and wheat crops, The Nation of California is powered by its wine grapes. The industry is flourishing in outposts such as Paso Robles and Temecula and, judging by prices, sees itself immune to global competition. They have yet to learn what the midwest has painfully accepted -- never say never. Like a Japanese car of 40 years ago, a $5 cabernet sauvignon from Chile or a $4 syrah from Australia could evolve into a product that could undercut established domestic markets. And might not get bailed out by the feds.